MEET THE BANDS…

    It seems only fitting that of the multitude of hip-hop acts on the West Coast, UCSD chose to book the only one that drops rhymes about the periodic table of elements to complement this year’s annual FallFest concert.

    Courtesy of MCS Records

    Don’t despair, though — instead, take a listen to “”Chemical Calisthenics”” by Bay area duo Blackalicious. You’ll probably concur that the group not only redefines “”dropping science”” — they wield a mind-blowing and completely original sound.

    Composed of lyricist Gift of Gab (Tim Parker) and producer/arranger/DJ Chief Xcel (Xavier Mosley), Blackalicious combines funky, sometimes experimental beats with breakneck flows and incredible wordplay.

    Like FallFest co-performers Jurassic 5, Blackalicious has contributed to the resurgence of a musical style best described as “”alternative rap,”” a school that pays its dues to

    hip-hop forerunners De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest rather than the “”gangsta”” rappers who traditionally characterize West Coast hip-hop.

    Gab and Xcel formed Blackalicious in 1992, but bounced around Davis, Calif., collaborating with friends in the SoleSides (later known as Quannum) crew before recording their first serious EP, “”Melodica,”” in 1995. The “”A2G”” EP followed in 1999, featuring the crowd-pleasing “”Alphabet Aerobics,”” a collaboration with Cut Chemist (of Jurassic 5 and Ozomatli fame) that showcased Gab’s innovative rhyming skills. The year 2000 saw the release of Blackalicious’s first full-length LP, “”Nia,”” which garnered raves and sparked a major-label bidding war eventually won by MCA.

    “”Blazing Arrow,”” the group’s latest and most ambitious release features “”Chemical Calisthenics,”” another Cut Chemist “”workout,”” that arrived this April.

    While “”Blazing Arrow”” retains the smooth, flowing feel of Blackalicious’s earlier work, it is a significantly more expansive effort. Gab and Xcel are joined by an array of guest artists including Ben Harper, Zach de la Rocha, the Roots’ ?uestlove, and J5’s Chali 2na. Equally important, Xcel plays composer on most tracks, leading live strings, horns, bass, keys and kits.

    Listening to “”Blazing Arrow,”” several things become clear. Blackalicious is hands-down one of the most creative hip-hop groups out there. They have a great ear for matching rhythm with melody. And they definitely aren’t afraid to challenge the conventions of hip-hop.

    So what does this mean for the good students of UCSD? Well, if Cut Chemist joins Blackalicious onstage tomorrow night, as one would surely expect him to, we might get the coolest chemistry lecture of our lives.

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